April 20, 2023
What does Europe want to be when it grows up? Rich or safe or both? Hopefully, Europe will decide to be just like Poland — a country with grit, a moral backbone, a unified populace, strong economy, and an ironclad commitment to enhance European security. Poland is doubling the size of its military forces because of Moscow’s menace. Poland became the first European “colony” to successfully rise up against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. In recent years, Poland has stood virtually alone in alerting the continent about the peril that Russian pipelines, energy dominance, and influence across Europe represented. Now, on April 13, Europeans were once again forewarned about dangers ahead in a powerful speech by Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Heidelberg Germany. “Europe has disarmed itself, staring at Russian aggression like a rabbit in headlights. My desire for the countries of Europe is to be so militarily strong that they do not need outside help in case of an attack. This is not so today. Without American involvement, Ukraine would no longer exist. And the Kremlin would have moved onto its next victim.”
Poland’s alarm before the second Ukrainian invasion in 2022 was mostly ignored or dismissed in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, and Rome. And the direct result of their indifference is the ongoing genocide and destruction in Ukraine and the upending of the world order and global economy. Morawiecki recommends that military budgets across Europe double or triple to match Poland’s commitment of 4 percent of its GDP. Poland intends to build Europe’s biggest land army, twice the size of Germany’s, and others must do the same because the Russian threat is far from over. He warns Europe against becoming more dependent on a potentially unreliable and dangerous China, nominally Russia’s ally.
Morawiecki’s message is blunt, in stark contrast to the nuanced diplomatic footsie recently played by France’s President Emmanuel Macron in China, or the Russian talking points espoused by the duplicitous Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. “The struggle of European nations for freedom did not end in 1989,” stated the Pole. “Since February 24, 2022, Ukrainians have been fighting daily for the freedom of all Europe. And it is also our future that depends on how this war unfolds. The defeat of Ukraine would be the defeat of the West. Indeed, of the entire free world.”
Europe must weaponize itself as well as boost its military support to Ukraine, he believes. Otherwise, Kyiv’s defeat would not only embolden Putin, as it did Hitler, but will embolden China too.
The toss-away statements by France’s naïve Macron after his three-day trek in April to visit China’s President Xi Jinping are not only disappointing, they are strategically damaging. He told an American journalist, after his visit, that Europe must resist pressure to be an American “vassal” by getting dragged into a confrontation between Xi and Washington over Taiwan. It was a gob-smacking slight. He was bad-mouthing America, and undermining international law,
the Western alliance as well as Taiwan. Was this gaffe simply about selling fois gras to the Chinese?
Apparently it was not. Adding stupidity to insult, he dissed Europe’s principal benefactor, the U.S., after the French deals were signed off in Beijing. Then he backed down after he was roundly criticized. But it was too late. Champagne corks had already popped in the Kremlin and in Beijing because a Euro leader had publicly tossed the United States, the concept of territorial sovereignty, and Taiwan under the bus.
Morawiecki said that such pandering to China and high-stakes trading are self-defeating and replicates what Europe did with Russia by staging a continental love-in with Putin that convinced the war criminal he could walk over Ukraine with impunity. “China is not being chastened,” scolded Morawiecki. “European leaders cannot say `Taiwan is not our business’. If Ukraine falls, the next day China may attack Taiwan.”
Responsibility for this war must be “shared by communist China,” he added. “The China Russia relationship is key to the future of the world. I’m concerned about support which Xi is giving to Putin. I hope he won’t cross the red line by delivering weapons to Russia, and he’s not doing this and that’s appropriate because Russia invaded Ukraine. But it’s a marriage of convenience. And Russia is underestimating the challenges of the future which they will have, vis a vis China, as well. Long-term versus short-term. Russians are short-sighted in that context.”
Fortunately, European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gets it and delivered a tough message when she was in China with Macron. She suggests that “de-risking” aspects of EU-China trade relations be undertaken involving renewable energy, raw materials, technologies, and defense — necessary because these sectors are exposed to undue interference due to “China’s explicit fusion of its military and commercial sectors.” She also warns that China’s plan to pit European Union countries against each other in order to advance its own geopolitical interests is already “in action”. “And it is now time for Europe to move to action, too. Now is the time to demonstrate our collective will; it is time to jointly define what success looks like, and to show the unity that makes us strong. We stand strongly against any unilateral change of the status quo, in particular by the use of force.”
Morawiecki seeringly pointed out in his speech that “trading with tyrants has hidden costs. Development is guaranteed only with predictable partners with common values. But Europeans want to sell more products to China at huge geopolitical cost by making us more dependent on China and not less dependent.”
Another problem has been that the ambitions of the continent’s members have differed. “The West? Not all have the same opinion toward Europe’s security challenge. Our neighbor to the west [Germany] made the mistake of closeness with Russia. Its macro-economic and business model was based on five pillars: Cheap energy from Russia; low cost of capital; cheap labor costs from Central Europe; free security from the United States; and high margin products sold to China. Now models have collapsed in ruins and some want a quick ceasefire almost at any price. Many Western European politicians want this – not all, as soon as possible – and they
don’t understand why Ukraine is fighting. They want high margin products to China to continue.”
He believes that Europe’s biggest challenge is that Germany and France lag behind smaller nations in terms of their commitment to the war or toward creation of a stronger European military alliance. This threatens the continent because Russia won’t stop and imperialism, colonialism, and nationalism “lies in its core”.
“Germany and France want Ukraine to win, but to what extent they are willing to engage, I’m not so sure,” said Morawiecki. “I do not see serious international moves or big donations from their own [military] depots to Ukraine as much as other countries are doing such as the UK, Czech Republic, Poland, Baltics, and others. This is a major concern and I wish there was more support.”
Once again in history, Poland is Europe’s canary in the coal mine. Its Prime Minister’s admonition must be heeded. Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, and the Baltics, are all at risk from a monstrous regime, but are divided as to next steps even though they cannot afford to be fragmented. Faced with an existential challenge, Europe must grow up and acquire the grit, moral backbone, public cohesiveness, and commitment to enhanced security that Poland demonstrates. Faced with a ruthless enemy, Europe’s overriding goal must be to become stronger and able to stand on its own — not to sell jet fighters and foie gras to Beijing or rely on America for backstopping.
Europe needs a reality check. And America, Britain, Japan, South Korea, Australia and their other allies, within and without Europe, must “read the Riot Act” to Brussels, Berlin, Rome, and Paris. And now.